COLORADO SPRINGS, Colo. (June 6, 2018) – The U.S. Women’s National Team had its record-setting 25-set win streak snapped on Wednesday against Brazil, but more importantly were able to extend its overall match win streak to nine by defeating the Brazilians 25-23, 26-28, 25-21, 25-18 in a battle of the top two teams in the FIVB Volleyball Nations League in Jiangmen, China.
The Americans, which sit atop the VNL standings with a 10-1 record and 31 standings points, will face China on June 7 (7:30 a.m. ET). China is ranked No. 1 in the world and are reigning Olympic champions, and the Americans are ranked second in the world. Brazil, ranked fourth in the world, falls to 9-2 overall in the Volleyball Nations League. Coupled with China’s victory over Russia later in the day, the U.S. Women have qualified for the six-team Finals Round taking place June 27 to July 1 in Nanjing, China.
The U.S. overcame a 15-12 deficit in the opening set using a 5-1 run to take a 17-16, then went on to win a 25-23 nail-biter. Team USA overcame a late 22-20 deficit in the second set and saved two set points to grab its own set point at 26-25, but Brazil won 28-26 on its third set-point chance to end the Americans’ record string of 25 straight set wins. Team USA overcame a 16-13 deficit in the third set and scored the final four points to win 25-21. After trailing 5-3 in the fourth set, the U.S. used a pivotal 11-3 run to gain a commanding 14-6 advantage and cruised to the 25-18 victory.
The U.S. has now won nine consecutive world-level major tournament matches for the first time since a run of nine straight wins in the 2016 FIVB World Grand Prix. Brazil entered the match riding a nine-match win streak after losing its Volleyball Nations League opener to Germany.
Team USA received balanced scoring against Brazil with four players in double-figure scoring. Middle Lauren Gibbemeyer (St. Paul, Minnesota) charted 16 points with eight kills on 16 swings and a match-high eight blocks. Outside hitter Jordan Larson (Hooper, Nebraska) added 15 kills on 35 swings and a block for 16 points. Middle Foluke Akinradewo (Ft. Lauderdale, Florida) contributed nine kills on 20 swings and four blocks for 13 points. Outside hitter Kim Hill (Portland, Oregon) pocketed 12 points with 11 kills via 36 swings and an ace.
Opposite Annie Drews (Elkhart, Indiana), who started the first two sets, turned in seven kills on 15 swings and an ace. Opposite Kelly Murphy (Wilmington, Illinois), who replaced Drews in the last two sets, tallied seven kills on 12 swings and a block in sparking the Americans after their first set loss in nine matches. Setter Carli Lloyd (Bonsall, California) added three kills on five swings. Michelle Bartsch-Hackley (Champaign, Illinois), a serving sub in three of the four sets, rounded out the scoring with an ace on five serves.
After losing the second set, the U.S. Women made some adjustments on defense and in the service game.
“We just had to refocus and make some changes on defense,” Larson said in regards to coming back after the second set loss. “I thought we were in system a little bit more, and our serving pressure definitely picked up a lot more. That helped us rebound and come back stronger in the third set.”
Libero Kelsey Robinson (Manhattan Beach, California) handled 29 receptions with a 48 positive reception percent. Hill passed 39 of the team’s 85 receptions with a 59 positive percent. Larson was credited with a 71 positive reception percent on 17 chances.
Lloyd set the Americans to a 43.2 kill percent (60-139). The U.S. held Brazil to a 34.1 kill percent (47-138).
The Americans held a 60-47 kill advantage and a 14-11 block margin. The Brazilians held a slim 4-3 edge in aces. The U.S. committed 28 errors in the match to Brazil’s 23.
The U.S. and Brazil are both expected to reach the Finals Round based on results through the 11th of 15 preliminary round matches. Larson said the Americans would look forward to a rematch if it were to happen.
“We really respect the Brazilian Federation and their team,” Larson said. “Obviously a win is a win. It is always fun to compete. I don’t think there is an edge, but I am just excited for another opportunity to play them. They are a great team, a fun competitor to play against.”
Brazil had won 10 of the last 12 world-level tournament matches against the United States.
The U.S. started Lloyd at setter, Drews at opposite, Larson and Hill at outside, and Akinradewo and Gibbemeyer at middle. Robinson served as the libero.
Brazil was led by Ana Carolina Da Silva’s 15 points and Amanda Francisco added 12 points.
Now on a nine-match win streak, Team USA’s focus shifts to host China. The Chinese are already in the VNL Finals Round as the host country, and will be looking to put on a show for their fans.
“We are excited about playing China,” Larson said. “I think it will be an amazing crowd, and we are just excited to be here in China. It has been a tough week so far, but we are excited for tomorrow.”
The Volleyball Nations League utilizes a five-week preliminary round robin schedule where all 16 teams play each other. The Volleyball Nations League Final Round will have host China joining the top five teams from the preliminary standings.
The U.S. earned an early 2-0 lead in the opening set with a Drews kill after a Brazil error, but Brazil quickly answered with three straight to take a 3-2 advantage. Brazil took a four-point advantage at 11-6 with five unanswered points. Larson and Hill downed consecutive kills and Brazil hit wide to close the gap to 12-10. Lloyd scored on a second touch and Brazil was called for an error to close the U.S. deficit to 15-14. Team USA tied the set at 15-all with an Akinradewo kill to cap a 3-0 American run. Larson hammered a cross-court winner and put up a block on consecutive plays to put the U.S. in front 17-16 at a Brazil timeout. Out of the break, Hill scored from the back row to give the U.S. a two-point cushion at 18-16. Brazil tied the set at 19-all with back-to-back points. Drews slammed a kill and Bartsch-Hackley served an ace to give the U.S. a two-point cushion at 23-21. Brazil knotted the score again at 23-all. Akinradewo served an ace to give the Americans a set point and Brazil hit long to give Team USA a 25-23 win.
Gibbemeyer put up a block and Brazil hit consecutive errors to yield an early 3-0 American lead in set two. Brazil quickly answered with three straight points to square the set at 3-all, pushed the advantage to 7-4 on a 7-1 run that included two blocks and two aces. Drews served an ace after a Brazil error to close the deficit to 8-7. Brazil expanded its lead to 11-8 on consecutive USA errors. Team USA tied the set at 12-all as Lloyd put up a block and Larson followed with a kill and Brazil hit long. The U.S. Americans went in front 14-13 with a Drews kill and Brazil error. Brazil reversed the lead to its side at 15-14. Drews hammered a kill and Akinradewo followed with a block to shift the lead to the Americans at 17-16. Brazil answered with consecutive points to again take the lead at 18-17, then upped the margin to 20-18 on a block. Team USA tied the set at 22-all on a Gibbemeyer block after a Larson kill. After a Brazil timeout, Hill slammed a kill to put the Americans in front 23-22. But Brazil was the first to reach set point at 24-23 in reversing the lead. Akinradewo downed a kill and put up a block to save a second set point and place the Americans in front 26-25. Brazil saved the set point and went in front 27-26 on back-to-back points, then won 28-26.
The U.S. opened up a 4-1 lead in the third set with kills from Hill, Murphy and Larson. Brazil chipped two points off the deficit at 4-3. Akinradewo pounded a slide after a Brazil error to the lift the Team USA lead to 6-3. Brazil scored four unanswered points to secure a 7-6 advantage. Brazil raised its margin to 10-7 on a 7-1 run. Brazil stretched its margin to 12-8 on back-to-back points. Murphy and Hill connected for consecutive kills to cut the gap in half at 15-13 before Brazil went into the second technical timeout leading 16-13. Akinradewo scored on a kill and block, then Larson scored on a kill to put the Americans in a tie at 16-all. Brazil gained a two-point cushion at 18-16 through the use of a video challenge. The U.S. tied the set again at 18-all with an Akinradewo kill and Gibbemeyer block. The Americans went in front 19-18 with a Brazil attack error. Team USA grabbed a two-point cushion at 21-19 with kills from Larson and Murphy. Brazil quickly tied the set again at 21-all. The U.S. answered with kills from Larson and Murphy to put the Americans in front 23-21. Team USA reached set point at 24-21 on a Brazil error, then won 25-21 on a Gibbemeyer kill.
Brazil was the first team to score on its own serve in the fourth set to go up 5-3. Team USA knotted the score at 5-all with an Akinradewo block and Hill ace, then went up 8-5 on three consecutive Brazil attack errors as part of a 5-0 American run. Brazil scored back-to-back points out of the first technical timeout to cut the gap to 8-7. Larson collected a kill and block, and Brazil hit long to increase the American lead to 11-7. Lloyd put up a block for a fourth straight point to build a 12-7 American lead. Murphy extended the American lead to 14-8 with a kill prompting a Brazil timeout. Gibbemeyer slammed a kill to lift the Americans to a 16-9 advantage at the second technical timeout. Brazil chipped two points off the deficit with consecutive points at 16-11. The Americans regained a seven-point lead at 18-11 with a Murphy kill and Brazil error. Larson put down a kill and Brazil hit long to put the USA at match point, 24-16. Team USA finalized the match at 25-18 on a Brazil service error.